Cutts v. St. Louis County Department of Health
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER... IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc. # 2 ] is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall issue process or cause process to issue on the complaint. Defendant shall be served w ith summons in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(j)(2)(A). The Marshal 's Office shall deliver a copy of the complaint and summons with the chief executive officer of St. Louis County. Signed by District Judge Ronnie L. White on 5/8/2015. (NEB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JOHN R. CUTTS,
ST. LOUIS COUNTY DEPT. OF HEALTH,
No. 4:15CV672 RLW
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. The motion will be granted. Additionally, having reviewed the case, the Court will
order the Marshal ' s Office to serve process on the St. Louis County Executive's Office.
In his pro se complaint against the St. Louis County Health Department, plaintiff asserts
generally a violation of his "privacy rights" under the 14th Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff states that the Health Department had an unconstitutional custom or policy of
allowing unauthorized access of their patients' medical records. Plaintiff states that the Health
Department allowed access to his medical records by an unnamed female worker who then
transferred an electronic copy of his medical records to her private email account. Plaintiff
names St. Louis County Department of Health in their official capacity, and he seeks monetary
relief in an amount of $2 million dollars.
The United States Supreme Court has recognized that "notions of substantive due process
contained within the Fourteenth Amendment safeguard individuals from unwarranted
governmental intrusions into their personal lives." Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S . 589, 598 n. 23
(1977); Cooksey v. Boyer, 289 F.3d. 513 , 515 (8th Cir.2002); Eagle v. Morgan, 88 F.3d. 620,
625 (8th Cir.1996). This "right to privacy" includes protection of an individual's interest in
avoiding disclosure of personal matters.
Whalen, 429 U.S. at 599-600. This protection,
however, is not without limitations, for not every disclosure of personal information will
implicate this "right to privacy," and extends the protection only to highly personal matters
considered to be "fundamental" or "implicit within the concept of ordered liberty". Cooksey, at
515- 16, citing Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S . 693 , 713 (1976); see also, Riley v. St. Louis County,
Missouri, et. al. , 153 F.3d. 627, 631 (8th Cir.1998).
In order to violate the constitutional right of privacy "the information disclosed must be
either a shocking degradation or an egregious humiliation ... to further some specific state
interest, or a flagrant bre[a]ch of a pledge of confidentiality which was instrumental in obtaining
the personal information." Cooksey, at 516 quoting Alexander v. Peffer, 993 F.3d. 1348, 1350
A release of medical records appears to fall within such a privacy right. See
Alexander, 993 F.3d at 1350.
The Court finds that plaintiff has alleged enough in his complaint to state a claim for a
violation of his right to privacy under the 14th Amendment.
As such, the Court will order
process to be served.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiffs motion to proceed in forma pauperis [Doc.
#2] is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk shall issue process or cause process to
issue on the complaint.
Defendant shall be served with summons in accordance with Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 4(j)(2)(A). The Marshal ' s Office shall deliver a copy of the complaint
and summons with the chief executive officer of St. Louis County.
~ay of May, 2015.
RONNIE L. WHITE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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